Jade Mayo

For Pride Month, WWD asked young Black creatives to share their coming-out stories. While Pride Month is over, the challenges facing the LGBTQ community, and their experiences, require more than a once-a-year focus. So WWD reached out to more Black creatives about their own coming-out stories to keep the conversation going.

 

El Lewis

My coming out was more of an invitation in. The first person in my family I felt most comfortable enough to tell was my mother. I remember the moment being fueled with liberation and I just proceeded to tell her the full truth about myself and my interests. It was a candid conversation that was uncompromising, yet vulnerable. It felt like I opened the door and it was her choice to walk in and have a seat.

Lex Porter

First, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Lex, my pronouns are she/her/hers and I identify as a lesbian. I recently started a podcast called “She|Her|Dyke” to create a space where masculine-presenting women can share their stories and day to day struggles.

“Coming out” was never a thing to me. At a young age I knew I was different, but I was unaware of the need to “come out” about it. I didn’t have any influences, and I honestly didn’t know what being gay was, I just knew I wasn’t attracted to men whatsoever. At the age of 14, and after quite a few failed boyfriend attempts, I decided to act on my attraction to women.

After about a year of me acting on this attraction, I was outed by Myspace. For context, since many may not know or remember, Myspace had a variety of in-depth surveys that you could post on your page and they allowed you to delve into your personal and love life. Of course, I posted my answers to my page because I wanted the ladies to get to know me. One day, I was out grabbing a sandwich from the deli and my mom called me and asked, “Who is Denise?’ In this moment my heart skipped quite a few beats because Denise was my girlfriend at the time. I tried to play it off like, “Oh, that’s my friend, mom — why?” My mom then told me that she saw my Myspace page and the survey said Denise was my first love.

At this point, the cat was out of the bag. I explained to my mom that Denise was my girlfriend and that we had been dating for maybe a year or so. My mom was heartbroken, she saw it as something she did wrong, as if she failed as a parent. We then had the talk about my lesbianism being a phase or if I needed some kind of counseling, essentially trying to figure out how this “problem” could be “fixed.”

After coming out, there was a bit of turbulence between my mother and me because we were both figuring out how to come to terms with it. Although it took some time, I am grateful we were both able to find peace and acceptance with me being her daughter who is also a lesbian. During one of the many conversations we had, I explained that this is who I am and this is what makes me happy and from that point on she understood. At the end of the day she wanted nothing more than for me to be happy, but she had to release those preconceived ideas of what happiness looked like for me.

My mother and I have been on this journey for 15 years now and I am so proud of how she has embraced me. She still sees me as Lex, loves me all the same, and actively accepts the fact that I am a lesbian. The most unexpected moment of growth for me is that she now finds herself being a support system for other parents who have trouble accepting their queer children. It definitely hasn’t been easy over the years, but words can’t express how grateful I am that we’ve been able to rebuild and strengthen our bond. Her support of not only me but all queer people is a coming-out story that you don’t always hear in Black families. I am so honored to share my story in hopes that it may soften the heart of a parent struggling to help their masculine-presenting lesbian daughter, or give a queer person hope that there is light at the end of the coming-out tunnel.

Jash Jay

The interesting thing about my story is I’ve actually never come out publicly.  As a professional disc jockey, I’ve always felt comfortable in any room. Why shouldn’t I?

My journey has been solely about me being comfortable with myself and sharing aspects of my life with others as I see fit and on my own timeline. Currently, I’m the most confident in myself and my space than I’ve ever been. I won’t allow anyone to shift that.

I was raised in a New Orleanian Southern Baptist household. My parents’ beliefs were deeply rooted in Christianity. My father is a reverend. We were very involved in church, attending services multiple times a week, including rehearsals on weekends. I was also no stranger to the word “sissy” being used in both the confines of my home and four church walls. “Don’t be a sissy. There are too many sissies running around here” rang in my head. At a young, impressionable age, this weighed on me tremendously.

I began to realize how I felt in terms of my sexuality around the age of 12, but I had no idea “why” I felt this way nor “who” I was at this time. The only thing that resonated with me during this period in my life was being taught that this “feeling” was wrong…and nothing else. I couldn’t discuss this with my friends; kids were cruel at this age. What would their parents think? Adults can be just as mean, surprisingly. They’d think I’m “mentally ill.” They’d stop their kids from playing with me. And God forbid my parents find out. They’d hate me or ask God for a new son. These are all thoughts no child should be burdened with, but here I was with all of these scenarios in my head.

During my adolescence, I dated several girls in an effort to “find myself.” I tried to be the guy society “taught” me I should be. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be accepted. I remember discussing my sexuality with my mom twice. LOL. Once at 15 when she brought up the topic (she considered it to be a phase, of course) and again at 22 when I initiated the conversation upon relocating from home. My mother has always expressed her unwavering love for me regardless of any circumstance. Thankfully, this time around, she was incredibly open and willing to listen with the intent to understand me not only as her son, but as an adult coming into his own. During our discussion, I recall saying to her, “Now don’t go running around telling everybody, Mom.” She loves to talk. She replied, “Don’t worry. I definitely won’t.” I knew this was code for not only being concerned about how others would view her as a God-fearing woman, but figuring out how she would protect her child from cruelty and ignorance of the world, even in his adulthood. Although I felt an overwhelming amount of relief, her response let me know that I still had quite a process of a journey ahead.

Starting out as a disc jockey, I dealt with many internal struggles over the years. Will I lose a gig based on my sexuality? Do I not fit the image? Is someone in the room whispering about me? But then I asked myself, why do these things matter? I’m an artist first; my work speaks for itself. And if anyone has an issue regarding my sexuality or identity, It’s more than likely an issue within themselves. I always strive to break down barriers because “artistry knows no bounds.”

My move to Georgia has been the most gratifying experience of my life, both its shortcomings and blessings. June marked my 10th year as an Atlanta resident. I’m also grateful to enter my seventh year as a full-time disc jockey. At the age of 32, I’ve encountered individuals and acquired friends from all walks of life. I’ve also found myself to be confident in any room, DJ’ing for crowds of people of all demographics, identities, and sexual preferences. My job is to create unity and inclusivity through art, music and storytelling. I strive to educate others in the same fashion. I’ve never felt pressured to parade my sexuality, but I’ve also learned to never disguise who I am. I’m very proud. As a DJ and simply as a human-being, anyone who feels uncomfortable or insecure in a space around myself or someone else based on gender identity or sexual preference, a space created for love, needs do some soul searching themselves. Life is never about creating false perceptions for others’ approval. It’s about living in your truth to your fullest potential.

Antonio Thompson

I grew up in Birmingham, Ala., in a very Christian home. For a long time, I played a heterosexual role because being a gay man in a Christian home was unheard of. I will never forget the summer before junior high — I lived around the corner from the middle school I attended. This one kid called me the F word the whole walk home. My mom was just getting off of work and was pulling into the driveway.

She overheard the kid calling me names and directed me over to the car to figure out why he was behaving this way toward me. I replied with “Mom, I don’t know.” She asked me if I was gay, and I told her, “No.” My parents instilled in me to be firm, to stand up for what I believe in at a very young age. She said, “You’ll always be Antonio, if you are nothing will change.. you know that right?” I said, “Yes ma’am…” She paused and said, “Well, Antonio, go defend yourself. Never let someone call you something you’re not.” I got into my first fight that afternoon. Sophomore year of college I was home for the summer, finally in a place where I felt confident enough to say I’m gay without feeling ashamed or scared. The first to know were my sisters. I flew back to New York and the minute I landed I got a call from my mom wanting to know if I had made it safe. She went into saying she had just had a conversation with my sisters and in that moment I knew someone had spilled my tea (haha )! I confirmed and apologized to my mom for not telling her when I was home. She assured me she knew for a very long time and she was just waiting for me. She told me she will forever love me and I will always be her son.

Jade Mayo

Can’t say that my story is the most climatic. But I basically crawled out of the closet over the course of a couple years. Most of my life, I grew up in a very religious household and had a very small circle of friends and family. I always wanted to try other things and explore outside of my circle. In my younger days, I always had short-lived interactions with men. Quick flirtations that always usually fizzled into friendships or ghosting, but never anything intimate. I always felt like an oddball and could never understand why. But after my parents’ divorce and slowly backing away from my religious beliefs in my early 20s, I began to hang out more in New York while expanding my friend circle.

I had just started working in Manhattan for an Indian beader and manufacturer, who had a lot of high-profile clients at the time. I eventually met the first woman that piqued my interest and our initial friendship turned into something more intimate. Even though she was far more experienced and more open with her sexuality, she made me feel safe enough to explore the new feelings that were starting to manifest.

Over time, my initial situation with my friend ended and we went our separate ways. I spent most of my mid-20s partying and working at my first big job in fashion, while sorting through my feelings about women. I clearly felt being gay was where I belonged. I had not felt that much clarity about my dating life or sexuality ever. Working in fashion helped this transitional period greatly. I didn’t feel like I worked in a field where I had to hide my sexuality to keep my job. Fashion has a way of bringing out our truths through clothing or imagery. I felt I could form my new authentic identity without shame.

But I really was a late bloomer to the community, so I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do. I was still learning how to approach and date women. I didn’t grow up or know anyone who was openly gay and I didn’t know any lesbians until I met my first. Most of my friends at the time were very straight, but one of my homegirls at the time helped me as much as she could.

Fortunately when I met my first, someone she knew eventually became sort of like my gay Yoda. Eyeris took me to all the lesbian haunts for the first time. Cubbyhole. Henrietta Hudson. Lesbian night at Escuelita’s (RIP). Took me to my first Pride. We got to bond over our love for Nineties music, ups and downs of dating and navigating our social lives. She really helped me learn so much about the LGBTQIA community that I now felt a part of and we are still great friends to this day.

Mostly everyone in my life knew I was gay after a certain point. I told my older brother first since we spent so much time around each other, I was honestly tired of hiding it. Then my younger brother, but I still had not told my mother anything. I’m extremely close to my mother and we literally talk about everything. But we never discussed my dating life. I felt no need to really come out to her before because I wasn’t seeing anyone seriously for a long time.

Eventually I did wind up dating someone that I was really falling for at the time and I was approaching 30. It was time. I knew that I wanted to introduce her to them. So finally I got up the courage to tell her. I think we were on a long drive somewhere and I finally told her that I was gay and had been seeing women for some time now. She was naturally shocked. But not appalled. Just confused that she hadn’t really taken notice. I think she thought I was joking because she said, “Really” or “Are you serious?” like five times. But then she took a long pause before she started asking the serious questions, “When?” “How long?” “Who?,” and most importantly, “Why?”

I told her that I wanted to be the one to tell her and not one of her old friends running into me on a date with someone and make it seem something salacious or tawdry. I wanted the same things most people want out of a potential partner or dating. I wanted her to see nothing drastic throughout the years of us being around each other, I had not really changed. Who she knew me to be as her daughter never changed. Except for the gender of the person that I really wanted to date and hope to marry.

Her main concern overall was that it’s hard enough to be a Black women in America, but even more dangerous to be a Black gay women. She was quiet for a while after I came out, but shortly after, she came around. She saw that it had not changed me to be someone she didn’t recognize. Plus she knew that a lot of her other hang-ups were based on a lot of ignorance and preconceived notions. She knew I was finally being my authentic self.



Julian Spencer 

My sexuality hasn’t always been so straightforward. Before I knew what “gay” was, before I was able to even make a decision whether I was gay or not, I was labeled as effeminate, soft. I loved dolls, I was obsessed with Lil’ Kim and “Spice World.” I showed “signs.” I’ve never fit a mold. Society labeled me before I could label myself. Routinely, my father and I would attend car shows, visit the barbershop, and circle the block to look at girls. So imagine my surprise when my father asks me, “Yo, are you gay?” in the most masculine way possible. I hadn’t thought about it. “Am I? I’m 14. I, I don’t think so.” A few months pass, it’s the second semester of my freshman year in high school, and in walks Robbie. He’s beautiful. Something, just, clicked. It felt right. I start chatting with guys on Myspace. Junior year, my play sister Bri knows I’m attracted to men, I had just broken up with my girlfriend, Latisha. She asks, “So, who are you attracted to at school?” I say, “Justin, Curtis,” both athletes, internalized homophobia early on. The next day, the whole school knows. Some sister. Luckily, the boys didn’t try to fight me, just stared at me in the hallways.

Regardless, coming out was never my own. My sexuality initially was not my own. My first sexual interaction with a man was not my own. I took back that power, which was taken from me. I’ve learned to own my sexuality. Writing has allowed me to own my story and tell it my way. I own my experiences and who I am. I’ve vowed that no one will ever have the power to write my story again.

BMAJR

I never had a picture-perfect “coming-out” story nor a simple “coming-out” moment. Growing up in urban Detroit, I always felt that I had to hide my sexuality from everyone. I played every sport under the sun to appear more hetero and masculine to my family, friends, and to myself. I went through most of my adolescence living a lie — even having a girlfriend at one point when there was no attraction, it was what I thought I had to be to “fit in” and to be accepted. It wasn’t until I started to mature and experience things when I left home, that I started to live in my truth and be my authentic self. I had to become comfortable in my sexuality and identity before even thinking of coming out to the world.

I grew to learn what “coming out” really means and it is different for everyone. Coming out doesn’t have to be a verbal declaration — but self-love to not have to hide who you are in life. I don’t have a specific public moment or instance of me officially coming out to the world or family and that is OK. I want young people to understand that it is OK to not be ready for the public coming-out — it is your right to be yourself and not owe anyone an explanation. Be proud of who you are and live your truth. I wouldn’t change any of my experiences, both good and bad, that allowed me to walk in my truth and embrace my sexuality. Living in my truth has allowed me to become a more confident DJ and scientist — enabling me to walk into any space and own it. I hope another young boy in Detroit sees my story and knows that it is OK to feel like you don’t owe anyone an explanation of how you feel and be comfortable with your sexuality and yourself first before giving a public declaration.

Tim Hell

I actually feel like I had to come out of the closet twice. The first time was back in middle school (seventh grade to be exact). I used to stay home by myself after school and at the time I had a crush on a boy that was in the neighborhood over so I thought it would be best for me to draft up a note and put it in his locker, pretty much confessing my love for him. (yikes, right?) I ended up getting too scared and never did it, but I left the note in my backpack just in case I ever got the courage. Little over a week later, report cards went home and I was never the greatest student so I tried to act like I didn’t get my report card when it was time to present it to my mother that evening. My mom is far from dumb so she knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish and went through my backpack to find the “missing report card.” Among the balled-up report card was also the note I forgot I left in my backpack.

The second she grabbed the note I knew there wasn’t anything I could really say to get me out of it but I tried my best. I knew I was gay since I was a child but I never actually shared that information with anyone ’cause I wasn’t fully ready to accept it myself yet. I wouldn’t say there was an interrogation but a lot of questions were asked and after maybe 30 minutes (what felt like hours) I finally decided to tell my mother that I was in fact gay. What’s crazy is she wasn’t upset with me being gay at all, more so that I hid the report card, which I feel like actually repressed my whole coming out.

The following week I attempted suicide for the first time ’cause I just felt like such a letdown. I didn’t really know what I was doing, luckily, so it was unsuccessful but I remember telling her that I did try to kill myself and her reaction was the most unconditional outpouring of love I ever received at that point in my life.

But don’t get me wrong, coming out didn’t change much about my life. I grew up in a religious household so I still was forced to go to church and even “therapy” sessions with my pastor, which ended with him just telling me that being gay is a sin. But that’s a story for another day.

The “second” [time] was a little better. My senior year in high school I was just tired of having people who knew I was gay constantly ignore my lifestyle and try to hook me up with girls, or even my mother calling one of the girls at church her “daughter in law” ’cause she just knew we were going to get married. Before I left for school one morning, I told my mom I needed to talk to her about something; later that day when I got home I chickened out of course (LOL) but I ended up just breaking down and telling her how I felt and I believe it helped our relationship tremendously. But even in the following years, I could tell my mom wasn’t too sure how to handle it because I wasn’t fully confident in being a Black and gay man.

Ten years later, I can’t lie, I still have moments where I struggle with my identity. I actually think my style is a prime example of that; a quick conversation with me and you’ll know I’m very in touch with my feminine side and have no problem “queening” out at moments but I definitely present very masculine in my style choices. I think that’s due to me having to hide or conform most of my life whether it was back in grade school or now currently in my military career.

If I could change anything about my coming out, it would be just having it be more on my terms than rather push out. I say all that to say “coming out” isn’t always rainbows and sunshine; sometimes it’s just a start of a never-ending identity search/battle. Also, the confidence you have in yourself sets the path for the confidence everyone else is going to have for you. One thing that I have learned through life is loving yourself is the most important thing in the world. Come out when you are ready.

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